9 February 2001 | Aw-komon
Anna Karina in Zurlini's great 1965 neo-realist masterpiece
This almost Dreyer-like deeply poetic film about 'faces' is one of the most brilliant of the 60s and one of the most inexplicably neglected and forgotten. I'd rank this as Zurlini's 2nd greatest achievement after the awe-inspiring existentialist technicolor masterpiece `Family Diary' starring Marcello Mastroianni. Zurlini's deliberate use of a slightly over-the-top melodramatic style of acting within a basically neo-realist approach that makes room for Antonioni-like meditative takes, allows him to make his points in an extra-real' and poetic zone where things are more symbolically flexible, dreamlike and fluid, closer to myth. It's a very difficult and fragile intuitive balancing act and sometimes, as in the cases of `Violent Summer' and `Girl With The Suitcase' not much more than a gorgeously photographed melodrama results. But the balance is definitely right on "Le Soldattese," "The Professor," and "Black Jesus."
Shot almost entirely on location in Greece in an awesome deep-focus newreel-documentary style black-and-white (with the emphasis on the blacks), `Le Soldattesse' is the story a group of prostitutes that have been recruited for the military brothels of Italian soldiers during WW II, and the long truck ride they take trying to get to their destinations through a war-torn mountainous area. Three military men of different rank have the job of taking them through, and the relationships they develop with the girls on this trip is the real subject matter of the film. Sublimely beautiful Sixties New-Wave icon Anna Karina plays the most cheerful of the ladies of leisure but there are no real leads in the film, all 5 or 6 of the main characters are given equal screen time and Zurlini never falters once as he draws poetic and hilarous performances full of insights from each character. On a higher level "Le Soldattese" becomes a deep examination of one relatively minor but revealing absurdity (prostitutes being carried to brothels in a war-torn area to boost troop morale) overlapping the bigger, related absurdity of the war itself and Mussolini-era fascism.